A UN conference on climate change has been warned about the growing impact of global warming on mankind.
Some 650,000 homes were damaged by floods in China
Senior UN official Klaus Toepfer said climate change was
a reality that would increasingly lead to human suffering and economic
Natural disasters, mostly caused by extreme weather,
cost more than $60bn this year alone, the international conference in
Italy was told.
However a senior US politician has cast doubt on the climate change warnings.
Organisers of the conference in Milan had hoped to get
final ratification needed to put the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse
gas emissions into effect.
But in the last few days, Russia - whose support is
vital after the US pulled out of the accord - has said it is having
second thoughts about signing.
The conference - into its 10th day before finishing on
Friday - heard that the effects of climate change were already being
"Climate change is already having an impact on mankind,
especially in developing countries," said China's chief delegate Liu
Mr Toepfer said: "Climate change is not a prognosis, it is a reality
that is and will increasingly bring human suffering and economic
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan spoke of the heightened frequency of extreme weather events in recent years.
""There is growing concern that this trend is likely to continue," he said.
The conference was shown some of the findings by
insurance firm Munich Re, which has been tracking the cost of global
Europe's extreme summer heat wave was the biggest single
event this year - costing more than $10bn in agricultural losses alone
and killing some 20,000 people.
However, some remain unconvinced about the arguments for accords such as Kyoto.
US Senator James Inhofe, who chairs the Senate Committee
on Environment and Public Works, says it is inconsistent with freedom,
prosperity and environmental policy progress.
"I'm becoming more and more convinced... that global
warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people
and the world," he told a conference briefing.
The BBC's David Bamford in Washington says Mr Inhofe's view fits neatly
with the majority view in the US congress - that America should do
nothing about the issue.
Financial cost of 2003's disasters
Europe's summer heat wave - $10bn
Flooding in China - nearly $8bn
Tornado in US Midwest - $3bn insured losses
Our correspondent says members of the Republican-led congress know the US is at odds with scientific experts.
However, obliging industrial plants to reduce emissions
would be a vote loser, because most Americans would assume it meant a
reduction in production, job losses and a rise in household energy
The last attempt in October to introduce such a bill
failed in the Senate, even though it was co-sponsored across party
lines by Democrat Joe Liebermann and Republican John McCain.